I recently had the pleasure of meeting a pet industry entrepreneur who has a passion for ensuring cat owners never experience the emotional pain of permanently losing their cat. Lisa Tamayo is the CEO of a new pet technology company, SCollar. Lisa and her husband built and sold a technology company several years ago, so they are no strangers to either starting a new business or how to incorporate technology into a new product. While SCollar is one of the many entrants into the race to breakthrough to the front of the pet technology pack, there are many tech-oriented products for dogs, but few for cats. According to the most recent APPA National Pet Owner’s Survey, 27% of cat owners have an electronic tracking device for their cat, an increase of 50 % since 2012. However, the majority of these tracking devices are implanted microchips. A collar with GPS is still quite a new concept and currently just 2% of cat owners have one, a number that is likely to grow over the next several years as more products are introduced to the pet market.

I was curious how a GPS system for cats worked and how it could keep cats from being lost forever. Lisa was kind enough to share her significant wisdom and insight into all things Cat GPS and below are snippets from our conversation.

Cats are elusive creatures. Whether a cat stays indoors exclusively or roams about the neighborhood, cats like to find small, tight places to tuck themselves into and sleep. Which is pretty inconvenient when you want to find them. There are times when a good shake of the food bag will do the trick, but not always. You call and you call and nothing happens. That little hitch in your throat stays there until he finally appears, sauntering over to rub against your legs while you contemplate yet another futile cat lecture. Time to talk about the next wave of Cat GPS Tracking.

If kitty goes outside, you would like to know where he hangs out. And if he doesn’t come when called, you need a way to find him. New technology is finally making both of these things possible. Currently your furry friends can be tracked with Cat GPS using cellular signals or Radio Frequency signals. But… what does that actually mean? A Cat GPS Tracker, really?

GPS CAT TRACKING WITH CELLULAR:

GPS with cellular offers more accurate tracking and can show kitty’s location in real time on a mobile app. There are several companies with cellular GPS trackers on the market, but most are too big for cats and small dogs. All of the currently available GPS Cat cellular trackers attach to a cat’s regular collar. GPS Cat cellular trackers are more expensive – ranging from $100 to $200 and require a cellular subscription costing between $5 and $15 per month. The best cellular GPS options for cats are Paw Tracker, Nuzzle, Pawtrack, and Pod.

The GOOD: GPS with cellular allows for real time tracking of a cat.
The BAD: Pet owners incur a monthly subscription cost.

GPS CAT TRACKING WITH RADIO FREQUENCY:

Radio Frequency (RF) tracking has been around for years and functions in a similar fashion to a walkie talkie. Most RF trackers attach to a cat’s collar, although newer companies are introducing RF tracking integrated into the collar. Some RF trackers require a remote to help pet owners find kitty, while others have introduced tracking on a mobile app. Social GPS, combing the signals of other users, is a tool some RF trackers employ to help locate a lost cat. Trackers using RF have a “line of sight” range of up to 500 meters but the range around a neighborhood is much smaller because the signal is blocked by obstacles like houses and trees. Prices range from $20-$100. The best options currently available for cats are TabCat, Pawscout and Scollar.

The GOOD: GPS with Radio Frequency is a more affordable option for tracking.
The BAD: The distance covered in a neighborhood is usually limited.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A CAT GPS TRACKER

A Head Start: The best tracker will show the pet owner where the cat has been to give an idea where to start looking. The most feared scenario is the one where the cat is missing and the pet owner has no idea where to look. All of the tracking devices listed point the pet owner in the right direction, just with varying degrees of effort. Older RF trackers use remotes, while newer technology uses the map based interface on a mobile app.

A Good Match: Match cat tracking requirements with cat movement patterns. The best type of tracker depends on the cat and the living arrangement. If the cat spends a lot of time outside and disappears for long periods, a GPS Cat Tracker with cellular is likely the best option. If kitty doesn’t go outside very much and spends most of her time close to home, a GPS Cat Tracker with Radio Frequency is likely the best option.

Multiple Uses: Look for a cat tracking system that includes other functions to help manage the cat. The pet wearable universe is rapidly growing and changing and newer technology does more than just track cats (and dogs). Trackers that light up at night, have sound for communication, monitor activity, and manage regular reminders for feeding and medications help with overall kitty care. A cat tracker with multiple uses also makes it easier to justify spending the money on the technology.

Carol Frank of Boulder, CO, is the founder of four companies in the pet industry and a Managing Director with MHT Partners, a premier middle-market investment bank, where she specializes in M&A in the pet sector. She is also a principal at BirdsEye Consulting, the pet industry’s premier consulting group. BirdsEye advises in the areas of M&A, strategy, and licensing. She can be reached at birdseye@carolfrank.com.